The Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking tri-colored dog. Berners are large, sturdy and balanced. They are very intelligent, agile and powerful enough to do the draft work they were bred to do in the mountainous regions of their origin. Dogs (male) should appear masculine, while bitches (female) are distinctly feminine.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Measured at the withers (point of shoulder) dogs are ideally 25 to 27-1/2 inches, bitches 23 to 26 inches. Though appearing square, Bernese Mountain Dogs are slightly longer in the body than they are tall. Good and heavy bone is of very important. Berners are distinctly robust.
Head - Expression
The head has a look of intelligence, is animated, and distinguished. The eyes should have a gentle appearance, and are dark brown, slightly oval in shape, with close fitting eyelids.
Blue eye color is a disqualification for show or breeding stock but pups with blue eyes make wonderful family pets. The ears are medium sized, set high, triangular in shape, rounded at the
tip, and hang close to the head when in repose. When the Bernese Mountain Dog is alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base, the top of the ear is level with the top of the skull. The skull is flat on top and broad, with a slight furrow and a well-defined but not exaggerated stop. The muzzle is strong and straight but never long. The lips are clean and as the Bernese Mountain Dog is a dry-mouthed breed the flews are only slightly developed. Ideally the teeth should meet in a scissors bite.
Neck, Top line, Body
The neck is strong, muscular and medium length. The top line is level from the withers to the croup. The chest is deep with well-sprung ribs reaching at least to the elbows. The back is broad, firm and strong. The croup is broad and smoothly rounded to the tail. The tail is bushy. It should be carried low when in repose.
An upward swirl is allowed when the dog is alert but the tail should not curl or be carried over the back.
The shoulders are moderately laid back, and well muscled. The legs are straight and strong and the elbows are well under the shoulder when the dog is standing. The pasterns slope very slightly but are not weak. The feet are round and compact.
The thighs are broad, strong and muscular. The stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly into the hocks. The hocks are straight as viewed from the rear.
The coat is thick, moderately long and slightly wavy or straight. It has a bright natural sheen.
Color and Markings
The Bernese Mountain Dog is tri-colored. The ground color is jet black.
The markings are rich rust and clear white. Symmetry of markings is desired but quality
of the overall conformation of the dog is of greater importance. Rust appears over each eye,
on the cheeks reaching to at least the corner of the mouth, on each side of the chest,
on all four legs, and under the tail. There is a white blaze and muzzle. A white marking on the chest may form an inverted cross. The tip of the tail is usually white. White on the feet
is desired but should not extend higher than the pasterns. Some puppies are born with a
Swiss Kiss which is a white marking on the nap of the neck. This marking
usually disappears when the adult coat comes in but will sometimes remain. Markings
other than described are considered faults. White legs or excessive white color is undesirable.
Any ground color other than black is a disqualification.
The natural working gait of the Bernese Mountain Dog is a slow trot, but the Berner is also capable of speed and agility. There is good reach in front and powerful drive from the rear. There should be no wasted motion. Front and rear legs on each side follow through in the same plane.
The temperament is self-confident, alert and good natured, never sharp or shy. They are extremely loyal. The Bernese Mountain Dog should stand steady, though may remain aloof to the attentions of strangers.
Blue eye color; any ground color other than black.
Origins of the Breed
The name Bernese Mountain Dog is a translation of the German Berner Sennenhund,
which means Bernese Alpine Herdsman's Dog. The breed's original name was Durrbachler,
after an inn where these farm dogs were bought and sold. The modern breed was developed
from dogs found in the countryside around Bern, Switzerland. The original Berner
Sennenhund was an all-around farm dog, used to guard the farm, drive the cows to and from
their mountain pastures, and pull carts loaded with milk cans to the dairy. Today's Berners retain some of these instincts. The breed was rescued from near extinction by Professor Albert Heim around the turn of the century, and has developed slowly since then. In 1948 there was a significant out crossing to a Newfoundland, which resulted in improving the temperament and increased the size.
Berners are known to have first come to America in 1926, and possibly even earlier, but the breed was not recognized by the AKC even after intervention by the Swiss Kennel Club. A decade later, two more were imported from Switzerland and these dogs became the first of the breed to be registered with the AKC.
The Bernese is a breed which needs human companionship, and should be made a part of the family. They are a gentle breed and very affectionate and extremely faithful to their humans. They make excellent children's companions and can get along very well with other pets. They make good watchdogs, but are not much of a guard dog. A Bernese
can be quite reserved around people they don't know, but once they have accepted someone as a friend, they will remember them all their lives.